unspoken boundaries

Until now, it never occurred to me how working the night shift is like being on Big Brother.  I refer in particular to Celebrity Big Brother 2012 (CBB 2012), where the social dynamics are so similar to those I witnessed and experienced on the Night Shift that it leaves me feeling slightly relieved at having survived all the drama.

Before January, the team that existed was small, and despite numerous changes to the cast and their so-called politics, you would still end up with people like Kirk or Georgia, no matter who the company eventually hired.  As you are isolated from management and rarely even met members of the day crew, this type of intimacy is inescapable; you become like a family, like a village.  Everything that happens is everyone’s business, and God help you if you ever decide to be something like honest!  On the Night Shift, nobody wants rejection, nobody wants any arguments, but with a team so small and intimate, it is hardly an atmosphere you can guarantee forever…

I once met a Georgia, and like the Georgia in CBB 2012, she didn’t come across as especially interesting when you first meet her.  You would see her working quietly at her desk or standing outside on the balcony, smoking with the others (we have a penthouse for an office).  However, you couldn’t imagine really talking to her unless you smoked as well or somehow caught the girl during lunch time.  As a non-smoker, my chances of interacting with Georgia were pretty abysmal.  I could have hung out on the balcony, it’s true, or tried to take my lunch at the same time, but we preferred to pass the Night Shift in opposite ways; thus, it was not meant to be.

But I wouldn’t have written her off for lame reasons like that.  It was more to do with this quality she and Georgia had in common.  While Georgia is a model by trade and likely very guarded due to her profession, the Georgia I worked with was like this for speculatively different reasons.  There is a point in everyone’s lives, I think, where they inherit this fear of other people and become so highly selective over who they think is ‘safe’ that they will reject a perfectly good friendship for their own peace of mind.

Now I’m not saying we would have made the best of friends, skipping off into the sunset and all that malarky, but the confusion you see amongst the contestants in CBB 2012 is the same way I felt about the Georgia I used to work with.  She was probably nice and didn’t have a bad thing to really say about you or anyone in the office, except you could sense this aloofness about her that you couldn’t understand, an aloofness which would gradually eat away at you because you just couldn’t get it.

So, in the end, I didn’t really like her.  We had nothing much in common and we ceased to hang out as the months went by.  When she finally left, there was nothing to say.  Just like that, we were out of each other’s lives without giving a damn, and to me, it was the strangest thing.

With Kirk, it was more or less the same.  People like Kirk don’t normally enter my friendships as I don’t approve their behaviour and generally don’t trust them.  Nevertheless, contact with such a person on the Night Shift is inevitable, and for a time, I did what most girls these days are expected to do: put up with it and hope they’ll respect the unspoken boundaries.  I mean, how else are you meant to deal with these over-zealous emotions?  If you protest straight away, like any sensible female should, you are seen as frigid, no fun, whereas calmly enduring a barrage of affection – without making a fuss – gains you a place in numerous good books and maybe less bitching from others who are watching.

Believe me, it was a very delicate balance, trying to be this guy’s “friend” whilst trying not to look like the supervisor’s pet or potential new girlfriend.  (Yes, Kirk was the supervisor!)  And before anyone goes off on one, I’m not saying that I’m the hottest girl on the Night Shift and that guys fall for me left, right, and centre, only that I’m a girl working with a team full of single guys who seem to have an interest in Asian women.  Given my past, I found this attention both discomforting and cloying; I would come into work feeling watched from all sides.  I’m used to avoiding attention, not gaining it, so all this ‘positive’ regard felt too much like a burden, nowhere near a compliment, and work, for me, became a little unbearable.

What happened with me and Kirk in the end wasn’t great.  There were arguments on the floor where people would cringe in their seats, not knowing what to say, and soon enough, we had stopped talking altogether, unless it was something related to work.  Like the twins Karissa and Kristina said, there comes a point where every Kirk will give up and start treating you like shit because you just won’t respond to their advances.

And thus, my dear, it was so.

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